In the past, never had I ever considered myself a runner, not really, anyways. The most running I’d ever done was during high school PE or at local 5Ks. Now, however, with proper training thanks to my uncle and friend Maria, 2 sprint triathlons, multiple 5 Ks, 2 15 Ks, 3 half marathons, and 1 full marathon under my belt, I feel comfortable enough to classify myself as a runner (albeit, not the fastest). And guys, I’m here to help any of you who are considering running to be your new favorite sport, pastime, hobby, or main form of exercise.
Distance running, or running in general, can be a daunting sport, especially when you’re running distances longer than 3 or 4 miles. If you’re considering participating in any races or incorporating running into your daily routine, I have some simple starter tips to help you be successful, and most importantly, remain injury free.
1. Proper Running Shoes
I know that I’ve mentioned this in my previous posts about essential gear for runners, but that just goes to show you how important they are for running. I cannot reiterate enough about the importance of properly fitted running shoes to help you stay injury free.
If you’re planning on pounding out many miles in a pair of shoes, you’ll want to be in something comfortable and supportive. Go get fitted at a running store like RoadRunner, Running Revolution, Sports Basement, etc. You should forgo Nikes (if you run in them) and try out different brands such as Brooks, Saucony (my personal favorite), Asics. They can get fairly pricey, but for shoes that’ll prevent injuries in short/long distances, I’d say that they’re worth it.
Note: Also, after a hundred miles or so, it’s important to retire your pair of shoes. I always know when it’s time to buy a new pair (when my hips and feet start to hurt).
2.Warm Up, Stretch, Roll Out
So many people complain about knee pain, ankle pain, hip pain, etc. when running, and if you have these symptoms, ask yourself if you’ve truly been doing these three things on a daily basis.
Always, always, always before any run, you have to warm up before stretching. Start warming up by jogging or running at a speed slower than your regular pace. After several minutes (8-10 minutes), more blood will be flowing to your muscle tissues, stop and stretch out all of your muscles (quads, hamstrings, calves, hip flexors, inner thighs, etc.). Complete your run. Stretch and roll out after your run.
If you’re running 1 mile, jog or speed walk the first several hundred feet (you need to get your heart rate slightly elevated) or do squats for 5 minutes, stretch, and then finish the mile.
Some of you might be wondering why we’re not stretching before our runs. This is mainly because our muscles aren’t warmed up yet. When your muscles aren’t warmed up, you risk pulling or straining a muscle when you stretch them.
After a workout, don’t forget to stretch then roll out with a foam roller, tiger tail, or tennis/lacrosse ball sometime after the run to massage your muscles and release the tightness. Tightness and lack of flexibility from your hamstrings, IT band (a ligament that runs along the outside of your hip to shin), or calves can cause knee pain.
Basically, since all of our muscles are connected, when one muscle is extremely tight, it can pull on other muscles and cause pain in your knees, hips, ankles, etc.
See how to roll out using a tiger tail here.
3. Start Slowly – Increase 10% of Workout Intensity Every 2-3 Weeks
Think about where you are and where you want to be. Set your goal and remember to be realistic and give yourself several months to train.
For example, you may want to be able to run a 10 K in 2 months, but if you’ve only been running a mile here or there, it’s important to ease into the training to prevent straining any muscles or worse. What you’ll need to do is build a sturdy foundation.
For the first two or three weeks, leave one day a week for a ‘workout’ day. These workout days are focused on the intensity of your runs to help you build your stamina.
Your schedule can look something like this if you’re a beginner (as in you have not run very much and are trying to try train for a run – maybe 5 or 10k?)
For the workout day on Tuesday, the 1 minute on means to run at a fast pace that’s hard but maintainable (slower than a sprint). The 1 minute off means to jog slowly and catch your breath. Repeat the 1 minute on and 1 minute off for about 4-5 times before doing a 1/2 mile cool down (jog) and then stretch. If the 1 min on or 1 min off is too difficult, do it for 30 seconds on and then 30 seconds off until you feel stronger. After three weeks, increase the intensity of your workout days or quantity of your long runs by no more than 10 percent. If you increase the mileage or intensity of your runs too quickly, you may cause an injury.
Note: If you’re a more advanced runner or are in decent shape, you can have 2 workout days (no more than 2) and you can design them so that they’re more challenging. Workout days and the long run are your most important runs of the week. All of the other days are dedicated to recovering and keeping your legs loose.
4. Cross Train and Take Rest Days
Sometimes your legs and joints need a break from all of the pounding against the pavement, especially after intense runs or long runs. Go on a walk or a bike ride. Hop on an elliptical and work out for 45 minutes. Go swimming, climbing, or do exercises similar to BBG or Bar Pilates to strengthen your core, shoulders, hip flexors, and legs.
It’s easy to get burnt out from running, and so to enjoy it, don’t overdo it.
Also, if you’re hurting or sick, rest. There’s no point in going out on a run if it isn’t going to be done with quality. Sometimes resting is more beneficial.
5. Hip Exercises
Having weak hips can lead to something called “runner’s knee”, where you feel pain in/around your kneecap or in the back of your knees. This is why it’s important to incorporate hip exercises into your daily routine so that you can strengthen your hips and run pain free.
Some of my favorite hip exercises are: squats, clamshells, hip thrusts, side leg lifts.
I generally squat sporadically throughout the day when I have time, and then at the end of every night, I’ll do the other three hip exercises. I tend to do ten on each side for each of the exercises. The exercises have tremendously helped in eliminating any hip pain during long runs.
Don’t forget to have fun! Sign up for races to do with friends and train with them.
The best part about signing up for a race is that it gives you a tangible goal to work towards. Signing up for one with a friend may mean that you guys can train together and hold each other accountable during workout runs. Trust me, it’s nice to have someone pushing you.
Good luck and feel free to contact me if you have any questions.